UK Accused of Endangering African Banana Producers in Pursuit of Lower Prices
In January 2020, the United Kingdom officially withdrew from the European Union, allowing the country's government to no longer be bound by EU policies and regulations.
The UK has been accused of pursuing a post-Brexit policy that could further reduce the price of bananas in shops at the expense of African producers, British media reported.
Although bananas are as cheap in the United Kingdom today as they were three decades ago, the British government is refusing to commit to the European Union's pledge to halt tariff cuts for large banana producers in order to protect smaller African competitors.
According to the report, the UK market is already dominated by Latin American "dollar banana" producers, who benefit from reduced import taxes under free trade agreements negotiated by the EU.
In 2019, the EU had promised
not to further cut tariffs on these producers to protect smaller African competitors, but the UK government is no longer bound by this promise after leaving the EU.
The Pan-African Association of Banana Producers and Exporters, Afruibana, is concerned that the UK government's review of banana tariffs could harm businesses in Ghana, Cameroon, Cote D'Ivoire and other countries that rely heavily on the banana export sector.
"Afruibana was deeply concerned to see the UK lower banana tariffs for Peru and Mexico […] We are worried that this could signal a departure from the UK's vital and longstanding commitment to support and develop our sector," Joseph Owona Kono, the president of Afruibana, said as quoted by British media.
Kono warned that "if similar concessions are made in forthcoming negotiations with the UK’s already dominant suppliers such as Ecuador, Colombia or Costa Rica, this would lead to less choice for British consumers and will put the livelihoods of thousands of workers, their families and supporting businesses across the African banana sector in grave danger
Latin American suppliers currently hold 62.7% of the UK market, while African nations account for only 11.5%, providing numerous jobs and sustaining half a million people in rural areas, according to Afruibana.
Critics in the UK argue that this policy undermines support
for Africa and disregards the long-term consequences of trade deals.
"Sadly it isn’t surprising that ministers might undermine the prospects of the poorest and particularly those in a key Commonwealth ally. Ministers have given little attention to Africa, having axed the Department for International Development and cut aid funding. This is yet another example of a trade deal Liz Truss and Greg Hands signed without thinking through the long-term implications," Gareth Thomas, a shadow trade minister in the opposition, said.